The Meaning of Money

A Meditation on Money

Money in one form or another has been an integral part of the human experience almost since the beginning of recorded history. It has been both a blessing and a curse. A great deal of human suffering can be traced back to our relationship with money. Money in its various forms has also been a cornerstone in the emergence of civilization from the dark ages, and for a while a unifying force by levelling the playing field and widening the opportunity for wealth and ownership.

As a health organization, we recognize that our relationship with money plays a critical role when it comes to our emotional and psychological health. Further, in our time it seems to have become an apparent measure of whether we have succeeded in life as a human being. Money appears also to be a key factor for many of us concerned with the inequalities, injustices and oppressions of peoples around the world.

The first question we ask in this course is “what is money?” We attempt to start at square one by inquiring into the fundamental or ontological structure of money i.e. what does it have to do with being human? Is our social identity tied up with money in some fundamental way? Some people did jump out of windows during the Great Depression of the 1930s. Other people were just born on the wrong side of the tracks so to speak and grew up with that identity.

Without question, money is an essential element in our existence. Almost no one is exempt from the exchange of money to maintain our livelihood. One might ask: who am I with regard to money? What is it about being human that requires this essential relationship with money, this strange medium through which peoples interact and relate with one another?

Next, we inquire into the reality of money as a determinant of value. With little exception, the value of most things including human life is often measured in terms of money. When someone dies in an unfortunate accident, for example, society attempts to place a monetary value on that human life. It is not to say or deny of course the other ways that we can value human life, such as the gift and contribution that person might have been to their family and society for example. Nevertheless, we must acknowledge how deeply the role of money plays in determining value and worth.

After addressing the phenomenon of money in our life, we then begin to examine our current relationship with money on an individual basis and how we can transform that relationship so that money can become a contributing factor to our material health and well-being. The intention of the course will be to transform our relationship with money from one that attempts to define us as human beings to one in which money exists in service of our commitments and well-being. We also examine what patterns with regard to money that we might have inherited through our families. Most often we can trace our relationship with money back to familial patterns, which we find are more difficult to break than most realize.